CLEVELAND – Given that he wore an Expos throwback uniform Saturday when pitching for the Nationals, Max Scherzer seemed the most qualified of the All-Stars to ask about the Rays proposal to split future seasons between Tampa Bay and Montreal.
Like many, but not all, of the players and agents queried, he is not a fan of the plan, though willing to listen.
“At first glance it sounds crazy,’’ Scherzer said. “But I would like to hear more of the plan of why they would think that would be a good idea. … I’m more than open to hear what the positives would be, why that would be a good idea. But on first glance it really doesn’t seem to have much merit from the players’ perspective.’’
Logistical concerns, impact on families and financial implications are all issues he said would need to be addressed.
“That’s where I would love to hear why MLB and why the owners … because of all the problems it would create why it would be a good idea to do that,’’ he said.
The old ball game
There also was plenty of talk Monday, as there has been much of the season, about the potential of changes to the baseballs leading to the proliferation of home runs. Though more diplomatic in his former media session, AL starter Justin Verlander told ESPN, in some colorful terms, he has no doubt there is a difference, and that he is “100 percent” sure MLB and commissioner Rob Manfred are behind it.
"Major League Baseball's turning this game into a joke,’’ Verlander said. “They own Rawlings, and you've got Manfred up here saying it might be the way they center the pill. They own the … company. If any other $40 billion company bought out a $400 million company and the product changed dramatically, it's not a guess as to what happened. We all know what happened. Manfred the first time he came in, what'd he say? He said we want more offense. All of a sudden he comes in, the balls are juiced? It's not coincidence. We're not idiots."
The Rays influence
In detailing his pitching plans for the game, AL/Boston manager Alex Cora and Verlander, the Astros ace, had a fun exchange with a Rays twist. Verlander asked Cora at the All-Star media conference, “Am I the opener?’ Cora replied, “You know what, you are. You’re the opener.’’ NL/Dodgers manager Dave Roberts will start his top lefty, Hyun-Jin Ryu.
Scherzer, for what it’s worth, is also not a fan of the opener strategy the Rays introduced and implemented last year, acknowledging it’s a complex issue. “I understand why teams, franchises, deploy the strategy and there’s certain situations where it does work and I think it is beneficial,’’ he said. “But at the end of the day, I think the fans want to see starting pitching. They want to see two starters go at it for 100-plus pitches, six-seven innings, and really are entertained by how each pitcher goes about their business. So at the end of the day fans drive this business.’’
Rays updates: Alvarado out 6-8 weeks, Lowe improving
Reliever Jose Alvarado is expected to miss six-eight weeks, which may accelerate the Rays search for bullpen help. Alvarado left Saturday’s game with a right oblique strain, and medical testing and an exam on Sunday showed he will miss an extended amount of time. … All-Star infielder Brandon Lowe said the bruised right leg that forced him to be inactive for Tuesday’s festivities and onto crutches last week is feeling much better. “I’m walking with no boot, no nothing like that so I’m on the up and up,’’ he said Monday. “We’re almost there.’’ Lowe was in uniform and standing near the batting cage during Monday’s workout. He is eligible to come off the injured list on Saturday but was not ready to commit to a timetable. … The Rays went 25-22 in their brutal stretch of 47 games in 48 games. … Saturday was the first game in 22 years of franchise history with the Rays hitting two go-ahead homers from the seventh inning on: Nate Lowe in the seventh, Travis d’Arnaud’s game-winner in the ninth. … Outfielder Austin Meadows is slated for reserve duty for the AL team.